Four Interesting Reward Types in D&D
Knowing they now hold incredible sway in the town of Asudem, the party negotiates with a halfling councilor about ownership of the Storm Temple. After all, they cleared the thri-kreen infestation beneath it, routed its corrupt clergy, and brought a new following to its patron deity; why shouldn’t they own the structure? If they did, they'd exert even more influence upon the Stormsteps and draw more followers. Yes, they thought, the Storm Temple would be theirs, no matter the cost.
En route to the dangerous Lost Precipices, the group stops a caravan heading toward the nearby town. Little do they know, it’s one of the town’s councilors who’s been absent for a few months. He’s incredibly grateful for all they’ve done in his absence and thusly promises he owes them a favor. A favor from Hector Gjorbinson, Merchant Lord of the Nine Goldmen Bank, is a powerful thing.
After besting the overrun catacombs beneath Hidden Sun Monastery and defending the canyon fortress from hordes of yuan-ti, red dragonborn, and thri-kreen, the party meets with the monastery’s master. The thankful dragonborn monk taps into each of their bodies’ ki, regardless of their class, and unlocks their hidden fury.
On the wall of a reviling shrine to Takhsis, goddess of manipulation, hangs a massive, black-bladed scythe. A platinum half-dragon picks it up, immediately sensing this weapon could grant him extreme power — at extreme cost.
Gone are the days are delving into a dungeon to find a treasure chest full of copper, silver, and gold pieces, along with the occasional +1 weapon or flaming sword (at least for some groups). Nowadays, it’s hip to populate your campaigns with interesting rewards, right? People want to feel powerful mechanically and in combat, yes, but they also strive to make a difference in other areas of the game that are becoming more and more “mainstream.” And even in the realm of combat-related item rewards, there’s room to innovate and create.
So, in the name of innovation, let’s delve into four interesting rewards to add to your Dungeons & Dragons campaigns: boons, weapons with a twist, places of power, and special favors.
Places of PowerWondrous temples, cloud-reaching towers, and flying fortresses, places of power are locations where your party can retreat to safety, store their treasures, plan their next adventure, and amass followers. These places can arrive in the hands of your party in a variety of ways. Perhaps they clear a dungeon of its inhabitants and decide to call it their new home. Maybe a local lord rewards them with a plot of land inside town or just on the road toward the city. Really, there are many ways to offer up a place of power to your party, but it’s up to them to take it.
And that’s the key: this reward is useless if your party isn’t interested in having a home of their own. Some groups will actively pursue this reward, others will gladly accept a stronghold, castle, or tower if given the opportunity, and a select few will pass it up. Regardless, there’s no harm in giving your group the chance to own their own place of power, so try it! If at first they’re not interested, have an NPC explain how this location could become a symbol of their mark on the land. With a significant enough symbol, followers will begin to journey there and more opportunities will present themselves. And hey, they’ll also be able to store all their sweet loot realistically.
Interested in this type of reward? Here are four ideas for places of power:
- The wreckage of a keep in a nearby forest are overrun with goblinoids led by a vicious, four-armed troll. The local lord declares whoever can rid it of this warmonger will have his support in repairing the keep and making it their own.
- A squadron of modron fly high in the skies of the Material Plane using their massive airship, trying to instill order in any society they deem chaotic. If the modrons aboard the airship were to be banished or destroyed, the genius and powerful airship would be up for grabs…
- Two weeks ago, news arrived that strange, yellow and green skinned humanoids emerged from a closeby wizard’s tower wielding silver swords and speaking of an unfathomable conflict. Some folk were able to ascertain that these creatures were gith — and had surely taken control of the wizard’s tower that connected to the Astral Plane. With him most likely dead or imprisoned and gith on the loose, that extra dimensional tower just might be vacant (but probably not).
- You’re given a proposition by an archdevil of the Nine Hells: murder an angel gone rogue in Avernus and be rewarded with an infernal fortress on the River Styx, becoming a Lord of Avernus. Do you accept?
Special FavorsA promise from a merchant-king, a pinky-swear from a delightful fairy sorcerer, or a deal written in blood by a night hag are all examples of special favors, things NPCs guarantee to deliver to your party. They can range in power and complexity and alter the course of your campaign. Say farewell to material rewards like gold, fortresses, weapons, and armor; say hello to promises of assistance from influential allies, defeated enemies, and mysterious entities. This type of reward can be utilized in a variety of ways and is a great way to infuse high-stakes social interaction into an encounter!
Here are a few ideas about what special favors can entail:
- A warlord promises assistance in a future battle.
- Two merchant lords give the group a blank check after they route out a vile werefrog gang.
- An eccentric pixie sorcerer pinky-swears that she’ll have a place for them in the Feywild if they need it.
- Grandmother Blenna, a night hag, will watch over the group and defend them from any outside sources of divination, besides herself of course.
- The local innkeeper promises the party free room and board in a room of their choosing after they stop a bar brawl.
- A genie in a lamp will tell them of his brother’s location when they’re ready. That way, they can secure another wish from a genie!
- Silver dragon sisters Daliana and Galiana pledge their loyalty to the group after they destroy their mother’s zombified husk. They will exert their influence (in polymorphed forms, of course) in the party’s favor over the local kingdom.
- An old king promises to pass the crown onto an individual of the party’s choice after they route the foul evil influencing his closest advisors.
BoonsA blessing from a high priest of Bahamut, an experimental serum injected by a thankful illithid, and an unfathomable power locked in a lost vault of the gods are all boons, cool abilities that add on to or enhance the abilities of your party. Of my four ideas in this article, this is the most controversial and the most powerful (potentially). Boons, while quickly outlined in the fifth edition Dungeon Master’s Guide for max-level characters, can be utilized at all levels of the game.
They’re great rewards for the end of a big arc or a particularly difficult side quest and they should be extremely rare. In addition, all of the party might not receive the boon; in my Enoach Desert campaign, a master monk offered to unlock the inner ki of the entire party, as long as they accepted the “blessing of the Hidden Sun, a long lost deity and force that hides with all of us today.” Some of the group accepted, others denied, leading to some members of the party gaining the boon.
Here’s a couple potential boons to bless your party with:
- Hidden Sun’s Fury: a blessing from a high priest of Bahamut. Maximize the damage dice of a single weapon attack. This ability recharges after a long rest.
- Illithid Serum: a thick liquid injected by an illithid arcanist. Permanently increases any one ability score by 2.
- Thoughts of the Secret God: knowledge obtained from the vault of a forgotten god. Gain proficiency in any two skills.
- Defensive Insight of the Weapon Master: defensive battle tactics ingrained into your mind by a general of the Abyss. Gain +1 to Armor Class, two uses of the Shield spell per long rest, or the ability to impose disadvantage on one enemy attack per long rest as a reaction.
Weapons With a TwistThe lightning-absorbing scimitar of an aarakocra storm sorcerer, a dark scythe meant to deal pain to both its wielder and their enemies, or a misty staffs that allows its wielder to transform into a lightning bolt — most of the time — are all possible weapons with a twist, weapons that aren’t simply +1 or add 1d4 fire damage onto each hit. These are created by mishmashing the different mechanics found within D&D, stealing cool ideas from other works, and wracking the deepest reaches of your mind to discover what your party will be enamored with. For what it’s worth, the magic item creation section of the Dungeon Master’s Guide has some great ideas; pull from there if you can’t think of anything. But truly, don’t reward your group with +1 weapons. Have them be more interesting than that!
Even adding simple abilities makes a huge difference. Perhaps a longsword shines blue light in a 10’ radius around its wielder and is made of mithril, making it a finesse weapon. How about a spiked mace that feeds on its wielder and its enemy, dealing an extra 3d4 damage to enemies on a hit but drawing 1d4 damage from its wielder on every hit? Don’t be afraid to create, reinvent, or steal from other sources; it’s your campaign! If this isn’t your style, that’s fine. Use the rules from the Dungeon Master’s Guide to make fifth edition “appropriate” magic items — but don’t just use +1 weapons over and over again.
- Reward your party with places of power. From these locales, they can build not only their power but their influence upon a part of the world.
- Offer your party special favors from NPC favorites, villains and allies alike! Once given, they are great to use in dramatic moments or when your party needs some extra help.
- Bless your party with boons that give them new and interesting abilities. These can range from in combat boosts to sway of extraplanar creatures; the possibilities are endless!
- Create weapons with a twist for your party. The serrated axe dripping with acid that splashes not only its target but its wielder and has the ability to turn into a clump of ooze for 1 hour is far more interesting than a +1 axe.
- Don’t be afraid to break the rules of the game to invent new stuff for your home campaign.
Until next time, fare thee well!
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